Italian rider Christian Moreni has spoken of his desire to return to cycling, despite having to literally 'pay for his mistakes' and an air of "indifference" that he feels encapsulates his possible comeback.
Moreni was escorted out of the Tour de France in 2007 after testing positive for testosterone, which he maintains was the result of using an ointment. He was informed of the development by a photographer at the Col d'Aubisque stage finish on July 25.
He was suspended for two years and forced to pay a year's salary for his misdemeanour, a result of signing the 'Rider's Commitment to a New Cycling'. The document was offered to all riders who wished to ride the 2007 Tour de France - should they not comply they ran the risk of being forced to sit out the season's biggest race.
"Out of my own pocket I decided to meet the commitment made by signing the document 'for a new cycling' that all we had to sign before the 2007 Tour," Moreni told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera. "I was Italian champion, I wore the [Giro d'Italia] pink jersey and the [national team] blue in two World Championships and the Olympics in Athens. I want to return to show that I can finish [my career] in a different way."
Despite signing the document pledging a new beginning for the sport, Moreni was one of several doping cases uncovered during the 2007 Tour. He recalled his decision to sign the document and admitted that consequently he should honour the penalty. "Before starting [the Tour] we all signed with the UCI; if we went positive we had to pay a year's salary to the Foundation for Doping Research.
"Many disagreed, but in my team whoever didn't sign the document could no longer ride. In July of this year my ban ended and I expressed my willingness to respect the UCI's commitment. [The UCI] gave me an appointment for October and we have an agreement. In a few days I will finalise the payment." Moreni preferred not to disclose how much the figure would be, however.
At 37 years old Moreni will find it difficult to find a team willing to sign him; the combination of age and tarnished reputation acting heavily against him. He realises the weight of the task ahead if he wishes to ride professionally again. "I know and in fact I did not expect to be welcomed by cycling with open arms, but I struggle to understand the indifference that is around me," he said.
"Those who have ventured more with doping are back and with many more honours. Evidently there is so much hypocrisy, but I don't have anyone [to support me]. I was wrong, I paid with the disqualification and by putting my hands in my pockets. I just want to have another chance to give something more to cycling and finish it off," he explained.
Moreni also explained that Michael Rasmussen, also ejected from the 2007 Tour de France and handed a two-year suspension for not disclosing his whereabouts several months before the race began, has been in contact with him and Alexandre Vinokourov via his lawyers in relation to paying to the fine as the Italian has done. He says that the UCI is chasing both riders for payment of their financial penalty.
But Moreni has a simple agenda - returning to what he loves, which is cycling. "I've got another job and if I wanted to withdraw from cycling I would not even have to pay the UCI," he said. "But I want to get back into play even if I'm no longer a kid and to show people: the rules must be respected. It wouldn't be bad if they introduced a fixed penalty fine for those who are found positive, I think a couple would think twice before doing some silly," he added.